By far the most visible of Britain's detention camps in Ulster for suspect members of the Irish Republican Army is H.M.S. Maidstone, a former submarine supply ship anchored in Belfast's harbor. One evening last week, seven prisoners sawed their way through porthole bars, lowered themselves into the icy water by knotted bed sheets and swam ashore. The fugitives hijacked a bus, drove into the market area of Belfast and vanished from sight.

That was by far the most spectacular escape since the Ulster government invoked the Special Powers Act last August to crack down on the I.R.A. terrorists. Suspecting another...

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